"When our mind is in the right place, we can build love – we can build a home."

Author O’Connor recounts her remarkable path from her native Japan to the United States, from a childhood of discouragement and dashed hopes for family acceptance to a loving, sharing marriage and the development of strong spiritual understanding. She was the second daughter of her Japanese parents yet was treated as somehow inferior to her older sister from the days of her earliest memories. Beset with financial worries, her mother evinced anxiety, and her father seemed distant. Presents for the two girls were symbolic of O’Connor’s emotional abuse, with the older girl receiving, for example, a beautifully dressed doll while the younger girl’s doll was clad in a plain blue uniform. In addition to her inexplicable rejection, the author found little interest in most typical girls’ activities. Instead, she longed to become a writer, composing poems and essays beginning in her teens.

When the time came for higher education, she was cajoled by financial support to study dentistry. Though it was not her wished-for profession, it offered her a chance to immigrate to the United States. In Bethesda, Maryland, as a postdoctoral professional researcher for the NIH, she settled into shared living quarters and there met Patrick, an Englishman who would become her enthusiastic companion and devoted husband. On trips to Japan to assist in complex family matters, the couple became immersed in the study and practice of Buddhism. Both became active and appreciated participants in that faith community, with Patrick assuming a leadership position until a profound decision was made to eschew the attraction of that role and seek the mystical Middle Way. Buddhist principles and practice would become a mainstay for O’Connor when Patrick began to show signs of increasingly serious illness. Harsh emotional testing emerged as O’Connor struggled with her spouse’s medical issues and her desperation, while occasional “miracles” of improvement inspired her to persevere.

It is a credit to O’Connor’s self-sustained abilities as a wordsmith that she has been able to record so intimately the twists and turns of her past journey and the hopes and aspirations of her current lifestyle as a writer and a practitioner of yoga. The phases of her emotionally isolated childhood are deftly contrasted with her success as a pediatric dentist who could readily empathize with and comfort the children whom she treated. The same can be said of her rise, with Patrick, to respected roles in their chosen spiritual society. Throughout this chronicle, O’Connor communicates a genuine wish to share the sense of peace that arises from overcoming difficulties, as her reactions gradually led to greater inward acceptance. Of special comfort for many readers will doubtless be the enduring insights gathered through the author’s perceptions at a time of heart-rending sadness. Through even the most debilitating moments, O’Connor’s convictions of a higher reality shine through, with visionary incidents and a retrospective understanding which, she avows, has brought her to “a more grounded, truthful place.” Discovering that place, revealed in the light of ancient, enduring beliefs, is the gift that O’Connor offers to readers who may find in her work both personal solace and the encouragement to explore with others the rewards of a transcendent faith.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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